Mary James Gill
Advocacy is the bridge between the voiceless and the corridors of power. Let us be that bridge.
Ex MPA , Human Rights Lawyer, and Activist
Mary James Gill boasts 15 years of experience as a rights lawyer, activist, former legislator, and policy researcher. She is currently heading the Center for Law & Justice (CLJ), minority-led policy research, advocacy, and development organization, working for marginalized minority communities in Pakistan. She is also the founder of Pakistan's first digital advocacy campaign, Sweepers are Superheroes.
In recognition of providing a new paradigm for sanitation workers, she received the prestigious Swedish Anna Lindh Prize in 2020 and the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic in 2021. She was recently awarded with the U.S. State Department’s Alumni Impact Award 2022. During the 76th celebration of Pakistan's Independence this year, Mary was honored with the Development Leadership Award in the Emerging Young category by the Ministry of Planning & Development of the Government of Pakistan.
Her main areas of interest are; social inclusion of marginalized minorities, issues of minority women and girls, improving socio-economic and working conditions of vulnerable working classes, and mainstreaming religious minorities in political and parliamentary processes.
Over the years, her work has been highlighted in several International and National media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, AFP, Al-Jazeera, DW, La Vanguardia, Aktuellt I Politiken, BBC Urdu, Independent Urdu, Urdu News, World Watch Monitor, Herald, and The News among many others. She was also included in HOT 100 for 2020 by Hello Pakistan magazine in the Torchbearers category with other esteemed names like Malala Yousafzai and Mahira Khan. Her work was recently featured in detail by Al-Jazeera.
Ms. Gill’s career began when, after passing a bachelor’s in political science with a role of honor, she chose to become a lawyer and a politician, despite the challenges of entering a profession in which most are male, Muslim, and of higher caste in Pakistan. As a legislative member, Ms. Gill contributed to enacting laws related to women, children, and religious minorities. From 2013 to 2018, she was a member of the legislative Punjab Assembly, and from 2015 to 2018, she was the convener of the Punjab Minority Advisory Council. She became a Professional Fellow in 2017 and has been an Executive Member of the Pak-US Alumni Network (PUAN) since 2021.
She completed her Master’s degree in Public Policy the same year and was invited to be a member of the Global Advisory Committee under the Initiative for Sanitation Workers (ISW). She later became a core committee member. The Initiative is a joint Global advocacy project for the health, safety, and dignity of sanitation workers of ILO, WHO, World Bank, WaterAid, and SNV, partially supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She is also a founding member of the Minority Women’s Forum, established in 2020.
As a legislative member, she contributed to several women-related initiatives and legal & policy reforms, including the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016 and family laws of religious minorities. Due to her years-long struggle, the reforms in Christian personal laws were included in Punjab’s Women Empowerment Package, 2017. She was also the key motivator behind the Punjab Government’s decision to end discriminatory eligibility for non-Muslims to be recruited as sanitation workers.
She is the co-author of Pakistan’s pioneer research, Shame and Stigma in Sanitation: Competing Faiths and Compromised Dignity, Safety and Employment Security of Sanitation Workers (2019), International Assistance and Impoverished Religious Minorities in Pakistan in the book What About Us? (2022) and the lead author of Stories of Resilience and Resolve: An Intersectional Study on the Plight of Non-Muslim Women and Girls in Pakistan (2022).
She has served as a Research Consultant for esteemed organizations such as the Institute of Development Studies, Minority Rights Group International, WaterAid International, Amnesty International, and UNDP Pakistan, among others.
Her primary focuses encompass the social inclusion of marginalized minorities, issues concerning minority women and girls, enhancing socio-economic conditions for the vulnerable working class, and integrating religious minorities into political and parliamentary proceedings.
Awards & Honors
Recipient of the prestigious Swedish Anna Lindh Prize 2020 on the nomination of WaterAid Sweden – Stockholm, Sweden
Professional Fellow 2017 | U. S. Department of State – Washington, D. C., United States of America
Recipient of the French Government’s Human Rights Prize 2021– Paris, France
Recipient of the U. S. Alumni Impact Award 2022 – Washington, D. C., United States of America
Recipient of Government of Pakistan’s Development Leadership Award 2023 – Islamabad, Pakistan